Is Publishing On A Slippery Slope?

The publishing industry has been making some big headlines lately, and unfortunately not for good reasons. Between the recent strikes and lawsuit hearings that involved some of the Big 5 publishers, the apparent acceptance of using AI to create art, and the announcement that some of Roald Dahl’s books are going to be edited for content and then re-released, life in or near the industry has been, well, interesting.

Personally, I supported the editors and agents who chose to strike — awful working conditions for them haven’t exactly been a secret — and truly hope they are getting the results they need. I read some of the news reports regarding court cases on not letting already massive publishers merge and become even more corporate, and really, I agree with that, too. And yes, the idea that newbie authors could use AI to help them generate a story or a novel, which they would then rep with an agent, and yes, possibly get a publishing contract, does seem like cheating, taking the creativity out of creative writing, putting authors who literally make it all up ourselves at an extreme disadvantage, if the AI results are considered “more desirable” by the industry. But, I have to say, because the news about Roald Dahl’s works has come in the midst of all these things shaking up the status quo of the industry, I do believe this is the straw that will break the corporate publishing camel’s back.

I don’t like censorship — not even censorship of books that I personally find problematic, even controversial. Basically, once most people realize a book is truly bad, in terms of deliberate misinformation or pushing a message that’s not very healthy or beneficial for readers to take to heart, sales drop off so drastically that often the books become almost hard to find, and usually old copies show up in library discard bins or bargain sales at thrift stores. My point is, give the public a chance to decide if something isn’t just distasteful but really dangerous. Let people use their brains, instead of being spoonfed (and in some cases having it shoved down their throats) what’s actually “good” and “bad” when it comes to fiction.

That’s the part that blows my mind about the whole Dahl situation: The publishers are insisting — for example — that people will be traumatized from reading multiple uses of the word “fat” in a fictional children’s tale. Written in the 1960s, when, whether we like it or not, the word “fat” was just what one said when describing a plus size person. If any of this theory is true, and humans are such whiners who are scarred for life because a nasty antagonist also happens to be overweight, then, WOW. And having read many different takes on the “correcting” and re-releasing debacle over the last few days, I honestly don’t think anyone is.

Dahl has been a controversial writer forever. He has many devoted fans, fans who still see problems with his work, and critics who stand by their argument that his work is too racist and sexist and stereotypical. Having read a few of his books and seen a few of the movies, I’d put myself in the category of, I can see what fans appreciate, but I also see issues, and wouldn’t call myself a fan. BUT, a whole lot of this discussion needs to take CONTEXT into consideration, and that’s a major factor the publisher is just plain ignoring.

These books were written in a different era, a time period when, by modern standards, politeness was not that polite, when common prejudices weren’t called out, when the majority of people reading children’s books just were middle class Caucasian families. None of that is cool; it’s awesome that literacy and accessibility to literature and genre fiction has expanded SO much in the last 50 years, and nowadays there are big chances of a kid from a racial or ethnic minority coming across James and the Giant Peach or Matilda or The Witches in a public library. (And they may even love it.)

So, back to the heart of the matter: CONTEXT. If the publisher were to pull older editions (pre-2023) of Dahl, then include in the re-releases a note or a reader’s guide, about the importance of putting Dahl’s stories into the CONTEXT of the era in which they were produced, without changing any of the actual text, that would be seen as honest, transparent, even admirable. This is a great time to be talking about what characterizations or plot points are considered problematic, and why we might not use certain adjectives or phrases or slang in literature now. But to remove the offensive parts in question, replace them and act as if they never existed, that opens up an enormous can of worms.

For one, the publisher is attempting to rewrite history. They’re doing so right under the nose of the reading public, without their permission, without caring if they object. The company is being blatant about altering the long-set-in-stone words of an author who has been dead for a long time. What does that mean for other authors’ books in the future? Let’s say in the year 2078 someone decides Stephen King shouldn’t have described Pennywise the Clown as having a red nose, because that’s somehow offensive. Are they going to make sure whoever owns the rights to Mr. King’s publications at that point hunts down every single potential reprint of “It” to have the printers remove the horrific combination of red and nose in the same sentence? Maybe by 2078 clowns won’t even be a thing anymore, so, again, people, CONTEXT.

And, from a practical standpoint, how much money is Puffin going to waste on these new Dahl editions? Which will, after all the hoopla, probably not sell very well at all? The devoted fans are already condemning them. People on the fence about Dahl’s stories weren’t excited about buying them, anyway. And many of Dahl’s critics will realistically say it’s too little, too late.

This isn’t just a cautionary tale for not mucking about with classic lit. This is being seen by many authors as a huge red flag about the sanctity of copyright laws. Readers are very concerned about not only the censorship, but the way Puffin is taking matters into their own hands, against general legal advice and common publishing practice. If there was going to be an event in this year that wouldn’t just shake up the industry but shake it down, I really believe this is it.

Only time will tell. But I really do sense some rumblings — so here’s hoping they’re moving in a good direction.


Audiobook Binge!

Good morning! Yes, I’m back! Between work and trying to write more and winter break, February was pretty busy! It also meant that most evenings I was too tired to crack open a physical book, so I went on an audio binge! This helped me get through some recent bestsellers that I’d been looking forward to, much quicker and with more engagement than if I’d been struggling to pay attention when all my eyes wanted to do was stare at the wall!

So here’s a rundown of what I listened to in February!

Maid by Stephanie Land. “Maid” first came to my attention as the new “It Girl” series for Netflix. It’s the memoir/true story of the life of journalist and activist Stephanie Land, who struggled in poverty for years after having her first child, when she chose to flee an abusive relationship rather than stay with an explosive partner. Despite the fact that many people would see this action as responsible, Land was constantly belittled and shamed by social workers and lawyers — the very people who should have been cheering her decision and helping her get her infant daughter to a safe place — and stuck her in a broken system of halfway houses and welfare that barely provided enough money to live on. Though Land never specifically states it, it was clear to me she suffered from depression and intense anxiety when her daughter was a baby, and frankly, it is remarkable that she managed to keep going, keep pushing, keep trying; she wouldn’t stop until they made it out of the halfway house, to their own apartment, away from another abusive boyfriend, into a cleaning job that led her to being nearly self-employed. Land describes in vivid but still relatable detail some of the friends she made while cleaning their houses, how the setbacks nearly did her in, but how her friends’ and bosses’ confidence in her ability, in her toughness, bolstered her self-esteem. The short version is that eventually she secured a couple of different grants to get into a Bachelor’s degree program at a university in Montana, and she and her daughter moved there to pursue their happily ever after. Although parts of this story were very difficult to sit through, it’s important to read/watch/listen to her tale. A lot of people don’t realize why the cycle of poverty is so trapping, and bringing the broken system into sharp focus is necessary if our society is ever going to properly fix it.

You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty by Dave Barry. Not a recent release (2016 or so, if I remember correctly), and certainly not very serious, this was absolutely the hardcore sarcastic, witty, pun-and-satire-filled humor break I needed. In this book, Barry covers bringing his daughter to a Justin Bieber concert (oy vey), what it takes to be a writer (not really), the differences between men and women’s verbal communication patterns, and a long fantastic travel log on his family’s trip to Israel. I laughed so hard that my stomach literally hurt at the end of the last disc, and it was utterly worth it. Barry is an icon from my youth that, by some miracle, has maintained his cool factor and not turned out to be a massive jerk (something a lot of us are experiencing with celebrities these days), so the fun just keeps coming. As always, I was struck by Barry’s ability to seamlessly weave truth and necessary food for thought in among even the silliest jokes and nonsensical meanderings. Thank you so much, sir, for still being worthy of my admiration.

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins. This is the first title I’ve tried by this author (though I think I watched a movie version of one of her books?). Anyway, this rather chilling, down-spirited who-dun-it with unreliable narrators was by turns interesting, depressing, and intriguing. There were chapters that made me ache for the suspect — who did turn out to be wrongfully accused — as she was a disabled woman still suffering from the effects of a car accident that happened in her childhood. The other likely candidates for murderer were a divorced couple, each with their own secrets and intense baggage, and a very, very strange woman who lives on a houseboat in a canal near the divorced couple. The story was a little convoluted throughout, and while I appreciated the first twist that revealed the real murderer (I did guess right!), I had a lot of trouble with the other twists. The second twist indicated the subplot — which was the houseboat woman accusing the ex-husband of stealing a book she wrote about her life — actually had very little to do with the main plot, and after a lot of buildup, that was disappointing. The final twist makes the audience think the motivation for the murder was actually completely wrong, and that definitely turned me off. I won’t be trying anything else by this author; unreliable narrators who in fact invalidate the entire story are a deal breaker for me.

Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen. My only DNF in this post, “Harry’s Trees” was 110% worth the DNF. It’s supposed to be a heartwarming tale of Harry, who loses his wife, and meets a young widow with a daughter, and how he rebuilds his life while everyone involved deals with their grief. So sayeth the blurb. This book is just STUPIDLY WEIRD. It can’t decide whether it’s being almost satire or just plain whining; within the first several chapters, it makes fun of Quakers, grief counselors, librarians, and even the main characters. The daughter is a precocious child named Oriana (hearing the audio narrator enunciate this ridiculously pretentious name over and over just made me grit my teeth), who is of course smarter than all the adults. There are hints of magical realism, but it’s also not treated as a serious subject, and this route just gets too irritating. So I stopped after the second CD.

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead. Also the first title I’ve finished by this author, “Harlem Shuffle” is amusing and poignant, a little long-winded in places, but it’s still worth the read. The story follows a black man in New York City in the 1970s, trying to make his way without falling into crime, in the midst of the civil rights movement and things changing all around him. I liked the often serious, sometimes tongue-in-cheek reflections on race and gender roles and stereotypes, and whether we believe them or whether we choose to alter them. This was definitely a title made all the more enjoyable by the narrator; his voice was distinct and fitting, he didn’t attempt silly accents or overdramatize the dialogue. I could imagine the characters and setting very well through his reading, and that certainly helped me make it to the end of this little-too-long novel.

And that’s all for now! Have a great weekend, everybody!

blogging, books

A Bookdragon’s Wish List

Keep as wallpaper (With images) | Cute animal drawings, Anime ...

I don’t like to talk about my age. It’s not that I feel old. It’s that I don’t want to feel old if I accidentally reveal too many details that concretely set me in a particular decade of origin.

But at the moment, I’m making an exception, because yesterday I became The Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Yes, that’s right, I turned…42.

Now, I’m aware that the notion I might suddenly be imbued with some amazing powers, status, or secret knowledge based solely on bearing this number is a fanciful one. But, hey, haven’t we all had enough reality for a while?! So let’s indulge in some daydreaming.

So, since I am ruling all for the next 12 months, what’s on my wish list? And of course, being a bookdragon, I will have very specific demands — er, “requests” regarding the bookish world.

Shall we get to it?

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No stickers on the dust jackets of hardcovers. Like, ever again. I know, I know, some of them are supposed to peel off easily, but too many of us have suffered tragedies as a result of 95% of stickers not coming off well. So, they shall be abolished!

There will be a limit on how high books can be priced. I feel the complaints about the cost of new titles with my soul. There are SO MANY interesting publications that I a) can’t get from the library and b) can’t afford to buy myself. From now on, bookstores won’t charge more than $20 for a hardcover and no more than $12 for a paperback. Yes, that includes online retailers!

Summaries on the back or the inside cover will no longer be misleading. This is absolutely a trend in recent years. It’s frustrating. It means I go into a book expecting something completely different to what I end up reading. So, be on notice misleading-blurb-creators!

Novels will adhere to a strict limit of 400 pages or less. No one has the time, or the energy, to read those great whalloping doorstops anymore. And if people are forced to get to the point already in their storytelling, they’ll actually have to leave out all those extraneous subplots and purple prose and 15 paragraphs describing the bathroom antiques. Onward to a more satisfying reading experience!

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Overused tropes will become a thing of the past. Look, I love the archetypes as much as the next well-read creature. HOWEVER, we’ve all had to suffer through faaaaaar too many Chosen Ones, Special Snowflakes, Mary Sues (female and male), love triangles (even love squares?!), inner circle betrayals, and enemies-turned-friends. It’s time for some NEW stuff.

Diversity will just be part of the deal. No need for agendas shoved in our faces, or bandwagon topics shoehorned into a story that could actually do without them. Biracial kids or non-traditional families or a range of disabled characters will just exist, in the way the author intended.

Authors are finally using more unique or uncommon names for characters – let’s keep this up. All through the early 2000s, character lists read like The Biggest Baby Names of that decade. No wonder we couldn’t tell anybody apart. Nowadays, though, protagonists — especially in YA fantasy — are a lot more likely to be called Maisie and Judd, rather than Bella and Finn. I wholeheartedly support this.

Anime Animals Wallpapers - Wallpaper Cave

On the other side of this, fantasy names will be PRONOUNCEABLE. Thousands of wonderful fantasy premises have been ruined by the authors insisting their characters bear monikers that only Klingons can pronounce. While I’m at the helm, this is getting locked in a closet (and the key being melted down).

Romance can take a break. Yes, romance is a big part of many people’s lives, and for many readers, the romance in fiction can be very escapist and satisfying. BUT there are more things to life than romance — including close friendships, sibling bonds, and extended relatives that feel like nuclear family. And many of us experience these, too, and would like to see more of them in novels. So, here’s my edict that authors will focus more on friendships than first loves or rebounds for a while.

Covers will only be appropriate, beautiful and/or amazing, and relevant to the story underneath. No shirtless dudes or swooning women with more clevage than sense. No collages of primary colors that tell us zero details about the plot or themes. And no hard-to-read fonts that mean we thought the title was “This Nebulous Sea Serpent” but turns out to be “This Nefarious Seashell Poppet.”

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Happy endings will be much easier to come by. I once wrote an entire post about how I can’t stand the intense negativity and grimdark elements in almost everything anymore. It is possible for characters with a rough backstory or a hard struggle on page to still get the girl or boy, run off to a serene little farm and raise wombats. Here’s to peaceful conclusions!

History, whether it’s nice or not, shall be accurately presented. Sorry-not-sorry, folks, but attempting to rewrite history is in fact dangerous. We have to remember all the bad stuff, so that we can ensure it doesn’t happen again. I’m all for alternative histories, or alternative futures — I’d like to read more of both, actually — but we can’t determine that erasing the past makes the future better. So we’re maintaining warts and all.

We’re promoting graphic novels as real books. They already are real, I know this, but too many snobs still pshaw graphic novels. They’re a fantastic medium for kids learning to read, or those who struggle with reading (this goes for teens and adults, too).

Series that should have ended a while back…will be done. As much as I love some of these long-running tales, they can seriously wrap up and ride off to that lovely little wombat farm. We all have our favorites that just feel…stale now, and I think we can all agree that endings don’t have to be sad, or unnaturally prolonged. We can say goodbye, and survive afterwards.

All right, this does it for my proclamations! What would you add to this list for the year you turn 42 and have all-powerful bookish status for a year?

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books, movies

Here’s My Two Cents

Beautiful Black Cat with Gold Eyes Portrait Journal: 150 Page ...

I have a million things I could say about the current (rightful) unrest happening in our country and being reflected around the world. But I really don’t think I’m the right person to be saying it, and others have said it all much better, and more appropriately. But this is what I can do, and will do — here are some under-recommended recommendations for reading, and viewing, to help inform, and inspire, not just now, but all the time.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. A good book for teens ...

With the Fire On High: 

Full disclosure — this wasn’t completely my cup of tea, purely because I am not the biggest reader of contemporary fiction. But this is a great story about the struggles of a teenage mother, and her desire to keep alive her dream of cooking professionally. With the Fire on High doesn’t shy away from addressing the stigma of trying to finish high school while raising a small child — and also provides hope for the future, even in this situation. This is absolutely an important novel, and I think it should be widely read. On The Come Up (9780062498564): Thomas, Angie: Books

On The Come Up:

Everybody’s still talking about Angie Thomas’ debut novel, The Hate U Give, but her fantastic second release is sadly out of focus. For someone who really didn’t care for the writing of the former, I loved the style of the latter. The text and the message, the story and the real-life topic, are easily woven together here, and On The Come Up feels so natural and from the heart. If this isn’t already on your TBR, it needs to be.

Misty Copeland "Life In Motion - An Unlikely Ballerina ...

Life In Motion (An Unlikely Ballerina): 

Misty Copeland is one of the few people of color rocking the American ballet scene, and I want everyone who loves the fine arts to know who she is. Her autobiography delves into the details of her personal challenges, as a black woman in a traditionally white field, and shows how she made her mark there. In spite of her groundbreaking status, Misty’s voice is utterly unpretentious and heartfelt, regardless of the topic or discussion of the chapter. By the way, you don’t have to be an expert on ballet to enjoy her story.

Moana review: after 80 years of experiments, Disney has made the ...

Disney’s Moana:

Put aside the Hawaiian connection for a minute, and revel in this tale of a young woman of color going out, on her own, to save the world she knows, and discover what else might be out there. Moana is a beautiful twist on the coming-of-age narrative, and the primary focus is on not giving up, no matter the odds.

Raising Dion's flaws are what also makes it appealing - PRIMETIMER

Raising Dion (Netflix): 

I’ve been discreetly trying to find ways to encourage diversity in Muffin’s entertainment consumption, and this one he stumbled on before I did. Raising Dion is a wonderful depiction of a mother’s love; of explaining to children there is good and evil in the world, pain and joy, at a level they can understand and relate to. It’s also a show that subtly touches on the fact there simply aren’t many POC superheroes. For anyone with a Netflix account, do give this one a watch.

Top 10 Hair-Raising Reasons You Need a Black Cat - The Trupanion Blog




books, geekery

…Be A Bookdragon

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There’s this advertisement on my Facebook feed, for a line of merchandise bearing the tagline, “In a world of bookworms, be a bookdragon.”

Apparently Facebook has spied on me enough to know that I like dragons, and that I would, in fact, refer to myself as a bookdragon. Putting aside the momentary concerns I have about privacy, I have to admit: I want something from this line of merch.

I like the statement. I feel it’s accurate.

And I do believe there are important distinction between the terms.

So, just what are they?


Bookworms love to read. Bookdragons find reading a way of lifeWe don’t just read books we find interesting; we keep detailed, organized lists of what books we should read, and why. We track announced new releases from our favorite authors (yes, to the point of camping out in bookstore entrances at ungodly hours). We don’t just read the books; we then write glowing reviews and post them on multiple social media platforms and share them with hundreds of human beings who don’t even know our real names, but will drop everything to read said post.

We also need to have all the merch based on these precious tomes, and follow the authors on Twitter, and once every spring build a garden statue out of clay that is meant to resemble our newest precious character.

Bookworms learn what foreshadowing and plot holes are. Bookdragons can nail down the flaws in even the most perfect novels, and headcanon our own ways of correcting them. We don’t simply finish a read we’d give 3.5 stars and say, “This was what I liked, and this is what I wasn’t so fond of.” We say, “It absolutely had me up until page 106, the second paragraph down, when the narrator revealed her father actually died in an accident, not from drinking too much lemonade, and that she felt responsible for causing the accident. The reason I couldn’t get on board with this point of view was because her mother had concretely referenced an accident and how it wasn’t her fault back on page 59. She really needs to listen to her mother, and the fact the rest of the story didn’t ever resolve their conflict feels like the writer and editor dropped the ball. Otherwise there would’ve been this amazing scene between the two characters by about page 257, where they aired all their grievances, yelled at each other, and then broke down in tears and hugged it out, and the ending wouldn’t have felt so hollow and bereft of forgiveness and redemption.”

Ahem. What? You know it’s true.

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Bookworms won’t always share their unpopular opinions. Bookdragons don’t hesitate. Let’s be totally honest, though — this is where we get in trouble. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having an opinion (especially since all art is subjective), and there’s also nothing at all wrong with not liking a book 88% of your friends did. However, being nasty about it definitely has its downsides. It is possible to write a very humorous negative review, and people laugh and laugh, and agree with what you’ve said, and you haven’t actually included phrases like, “This author should burn in hell for throwing in a love triangle.”

Seriously. Knock off the more inhumane reactions to books or authors who disappoint or even anger you. Sorry-not-sorry, folks.

Okay, that’s my one lecture in this post.

Bookworms are often also writers, but they may feel more content sticking to non-published formats. Bookdragons are often also indie or trad authors, or reviewers/bloggers that get paid. Now, before anybody gets up on their high horse, I’m going to say this point blank: If you write, YOU ARE A WRITER. Whether you’re a blogger, on Wattpad, you jot down poems in a journal, or can Google yourself and novel titles pop up, it is all you’re a writer. The difference comes in the amount of determination and perseverance. And many bloggers or journalers admit, they aren’t sure about diving into official publishing. And that doesn’t disqualify them, either. Because publishing does take a thick skin (or scaly hide), and it isn’t for everyone who loves to see the written word appear from their own pen or keyboard.

Bookdragons may be more successful in this endeavor because we breathe fire and tend to eat our problems.

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Bookworms collect books they adore. Bookdragons hoard hardcover and paperbacks and special editions of the same exact title, gather all the merch, and scour crafts store sales for the most realistic-looking fake flowers for our Instagram photos. Personally, I don’t do Instagram, but so many of us do, and it is a labor of love. We do share pictures that look great on a limited budget, and we truly flail in delight whenever someone appreciates our hard work. We just can’t help wanting to show others how incredible our carefully cultivated bookshelves look.

Bookworms check news from their favorite authors. Bookdragons have their favorite authors’ newsletter emails placed at number one in Contacts; higher than their parents, siblings, or children. Okay, I’m exaggerating (slightly). But we do get very attached to our beloved wordsmith humans, and will frequently admit to it. Neil Gaiman is just a lovely person who I would happily sit down with for a cup of tea, given half the chance. When I learned of Terry Pratchett’s passing, I sobbed for hours on end. Maggie Stiefvater was recently joking on Twitter about an MRI she had, and I was like, “DON’T YOU DARE!”

Authors who can put into words all the feelings and experiences we thought no one else understood are highly prized treasures, and should be appreciated by the entire human race as the gift from God they are.

*Clears throat and wipes eyes*

All right, that’s my list. Any you’d add, moths?

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books, community

Literary Snobbery Bites

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Just what is literary snobbery, and why does it make us say ouch, and want to avoid it? Well, most of us who are avid readers, or writers and readers, are aware that there are some people in the world who simply feel one type of literature is “better” than all the rest. This perspective ranges from demeaning certain genres, styles, and/or authors, to being downright nasty on social media or in real life socializing, to concretely boycotting and encouraging boycott of particular titles, or — again — authors or genres.

Just like any other kind of snob, literary snobs are just eewww. And like other kind of snobs, literary ones feel they are absolutely right, no matter what, why can’t you see that, and, no, you aren’t going to change their perfect and complete minds.

A-hem. Okay, let’s temper this salt just a little.

The biggest reason literary snobs get under the skin of those who just plain like to read what we like to read is their superiority attitude. Bookworms — and especially bookdragons — are always going on about how much their favorite titles mean to them, and how everybody they know should read immediately, and love them just as intensely. However, what makes us not-a-snob is the fact that, if someone doesn’t like our favorite book, we may be disappointed or even miffed, but we will not proceed to formulate plans to hunt down these individuals in the night and…

Oh, right, less salt.

Unfortunately, we have probably all had an experience (more than one?) where we either got into a heated argument or a very uncomfortable debate with somebody based on literary snobbery. I know it’s happened to me. But what’s really the best way to deal with it? Other than passionately defending your dear papered loves…particularly when the party opposite refuses to be swayed, even a tiny bit?

And really, what’s our end goal? To get them to admit our favorite book is the best ever? Or just to get off their stupid soapbox and admit something that simply isn’t to their taste still has value?

For most of us, it’s the latter.

So, how do we do this constructively? While retaining our own sanity?

Maybe there are reasons literary snobs are this way. Let’s start with that.

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Do they genuinely realize how hard it is to be a writer? A lot of enthusiastic readers probably don’t. This may be surprising, but since becoming a self-published author, I’ve come across a monumental amount of misconceptions or misinformation among readers about writers. One is this notion that if you’re talented and trained, or at least educated via academia or the school of life, about doing a thing — such as writing a book — that it should come easily. Very intelligent people can have no concept of how the creative brain operates.

There’s also the fact that society tends to decide what’s “mainstream” and what’s “fringe.” Science fiction and fantasy, graphic novels, horror, speculative religious or spiritual fiction, tends to be seen in our society as “fringe.” The reason romances and mysteries and biographies of politicians and celebrities are in bookstores and libraries everywhere is because they’re more conforming, more generalized, easier to get ahold of (for sellers or distributors), and more people consider them acceptable to read — and be seen reading.

Changing people’s minds about what’s “acceptable” can be a hard road. There are lots of people I know passingly in my area that find fantasy and juvenile fiction to be “beneath” authors, and readers. Because this is what write, I am not always appreciated wherever I go as a card-carrying author. This gets tedious, but also, I get used to it.

Not that I like it. So, again, what’s the solution?

Maybe there isn’t one when it comes to taste?

Or maybe we can at least try to encourage broadening horizons? What if someone reads a book in a genre or style they swore they’d never try…and they enjoyed it? This does happen, and not as infrequently as we might believe. It’s a step forward…

How do you make sure you don’t accidentally turn into a literary snob yourself? My advice is to always have a variety of authors, in at least two different genres, that are your go-tos for new titles/releases, and don’t be afraid to try suggestions. Generally I read YA and MG fantasy, but there are a handful of adult fantasy or adult romance novelists I return to now and again. Sometimes I shake it up with a biography or memoir or a title I haven’t read since about 1998. It’s all good.

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If someone will never agree with your recommendations, learn to let it go. Live and let live. Peace (and your sanity) is more important.

What to do if you’re surrounded by literary snobs?

Well…is there any way to change your circumstances? I mean, if your co-workers fit this category, but you’re more open-minded, but can’t just quit your job, there are always online communities where you can find those sharing your interests and views.

If it’s something you don’t have to be involved in — like me and a certain book club I mentioned recently — then just remove yourself from it, and be glad of the escape.

What if pushing forward with your own intention to broaden is the way it has to be — because the literary snobs are your family, students, or you’re — for example — the head of the book club?

I know someone who refuses to give up. She’s making a bunch of retired grandmothers (who are very picky on their reading selections) get through Stephen King’s Bag of Bones in October.

And if you are well-read, please be kind to those who may not be. You could unintentionally turn somebody off from reading a certain genre or author, depending on your reaction to their lack of knowledge.

And there are many reasons why people either don’t have the time or inclination towards reading something you feel they should’ve finished years ago.

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Since we all love reading, we want to encourage others to pursue it. If we make it feel like reading for pleasure is something that’s unreachable or unrelatable, our passion won’t get much past us.

Let’s grow the flock.

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Pros and Cons of Audiobooks

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So, this is a discussion I’ve sent a lot of bloggers engaging in lately. Audiobooks have become a big deal to avid readers.

I remember, not all that long ago, the claim was that listening to someone else read the text wasn’t “real” reading, so bookworms tended to shy away from the format.

However, that narrative (pun…intended, maybe?) has shifted, and now the case is concretely this: Audiobooks totally count as a real way to ingest a written work. And those of us with massive TBRs are happily jumping on this bandwagon.

Just because I like to share my thoughts on these matters (and because I need a topic to post on, and since I’ve been sick recently, my brain is like scrambled eggs, and there isn’t a shell – ha! – of a new idea in there), as I’ve seen several blogs covering audiobooks in the last few weeks, I figured I’d throw in my two cents.

Pros, for me, of audiobooks:

They can be acquired through libraries! Since my book buying budget (for any format) is very tight, anything I can find via the public library for free is a valuable asset to my bookdragon ways.

Lots of genre selection. There are now tons of titles on audio, not just New York Times bestsellers who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in Most Boring Literature (sorry, did I say that out loud?). So whether you like fantasy, mystery, contemporary romance, or biographies of famous dogs, you can find something to suit your fancy.

You can still get your chores done without sacrificing reading time. It’s 7:00 in the evening, and you have a terrible choice to make — give up the notion of conquering those dishes and waking up to a clean kitchen the next morning, or abandon finishing that book (that’s due at the library tomorrow). If you check out the audio version, you can do both at the same time!

Some stories hit you more when a practiced narrator is pronouncing the hard-to-read words. This is especially true for me with historical fiction and epic fantasy. Usually I duck out of reading such genres because I get too tripped up on not being able to sound out the nouns, and it’s really hard to not get frustrated when every other paragraph, there’s the name of that place or person again, and your inner voice goes from, “The horse threw its rider and galloped off, and the Duke watched helplessly as…A-r-c-h-samba?-er-let’s-just-call-him-Fred…plummeted into the gorge below.” I would so much rather have the lovely British voice inform me that the guy’s name simply sounds like Arksashy. Cool. Doesn’t throw me off the track of the plot.

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Unfortunately, some cons:

Not all narrators are created equal. Sad to say, but not every audiobook you click play on will have an engaging reader. And there’s really no way of knowing this until you listen. Kind of like not being sure whether you’ll like an author’s style or not, and needing to open the book to know one way or the other. So you may get some duds on audio, too.

If you can’t stand headphones or earbuds (that’s me), you can’t listen whenever, wherever. Since having anything over my ears — and certainly in my ears — for very long drives me batty, I’m limited on when and where I can turn on my audiobooks.

Same goes for owning limited sorts of devices. We don’t have a bunch of extra money around my house, so I currently don’t have access to a smartphone, tablet, portable CD player, etc. That also prevents me from listening as much as I would like.

No matter how much you wish it, some titles just won’t be on audio. I think specifically of indie authors and small press. I know many of them are branching out to include audio, as the process is becoming more affordable and accessible. And while that’s awesome, self-published me realistically won’t have the money for audio versions of my books until probably after we establish that colony on Mars. So I get it (and kind of mourn it).

The in-betweens of audiobooks:

There is still no replacement for the magic of your eyes following the words on the page and seeing the characters come to life in your own interpretation. I’m somewhat a visual learner, and there are times when listening alone just doesn’t give me the whole picture. Often physically reading gets me more immersed, and feeling more accurate in my mind’s eye depictions of the action and characters.

It feels easier to “cheat” with audio. If you’re reading along, and the story or style is meh, and you skip ahead a few pages, to see if your impression has changed, you still believe (and many would agree) that you’re giving the book a fair shot. However, with audio, simply hitting fast-forward or next…through the equivalent of 50 pages…is far too simple. (Maybe the moral dilemmia of that is a discussion for another day?!)

In the end, audiobooks definitely count as reading, and for some of us, they’ll become the preferred way to tackle our TBR, and that’s all okay. While for me, audio will never overtake the physical text, it is still a format that brings alive storytelling, keeps you informed, and introduces you to new, cool stuff. So, if you haven’t tried this already, I do recommend it!

Do you listen to audiobooks? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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books, reading

Is There Such a Breed as the Persnickety Bookdragon?

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I am most definitely the above described creature. And I absolutely appreciate the generational value of literature, and want to see the world full of children who enjoy reading, and if you roll out a list of “100 books everyone should read,” there is a very good chance I will personally have read at least some of them. Many, depending on the genres or topics.

But here’s where the nitpickiness of my reading habits begin to show: Depending on the genres or topics. A few years ago, I’d reached the point of being comfortable with my specific interests, and not quite caring if those didn’t match up with the hobbies of those around me. I didn’t feel the need to apologize for being a geek and primarily ingesting fantasy, science fiction, fairytale retellings, alternate history, magical realism, and all of this in YA and even juvenile publications.

However, eventually my rationale started to feel hollow. I was running out of new authors to try — especially since I’d already rejected many of the ones I’d discovered since taking up blogging — and starting to wonder if I was…well, just too particular a reader.

Since joining two book clubs through my local library, I have realized that I am A) indeed quite persnickety when it comes to what I want to read, and B) for reasons I can’t really explain, it does bother me.

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Here’s a list of my bookdragon sins:

  • Not finishing books
  • Skimming scenes or entire chapters that weren’t catching my fancy
  • Giving up on a series halfway through if it took a turn that irked me
  • Not trying something else by an author whose work was so-so for me
  • Dismissing entire genres after only one read, or even none at all
  • Imposing a book buying ban on my whole family
  • Not joining a subscription box the second I learned about them
  • Refusing to give new releases a chance just because they’re compared to titles/series I didn’t like

There was a time when I’d defend all of these moves. These days…not so much.

The fear of missing out is becoming quite real right now. I’m beginning to understand why book bloggers speak of adding every single new title they hear of to their TBR purely for the sake of not feeling out of the loop.

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Or, let’s put a positive spin on this. What are some good points to being a persnickety bookdragon? Well, you save money, you save time, and you save space. You don’t have to worry about wasting hard-earned cash on titles you always knew, deep down, you wouldn’t like; you don’t have to find places to put 473 books; you can devote more of your free moments to sunbathing in your yard and languorously petting the dog.

Please no one tell me this theory doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

The downsides of this are not being included in as many online discussions, not getting references many of your friends do, and wondering what fictional glory you may be missing by not having read this or that. And none of this is fun. Not when you’re a bookdragon, and consuming a variety of literature and flailing over it is part of your very reason for existing.

So, I think it is time to loosen my tightened criteria, just a little. I want to have more of a hoard to proudly guard. I want to increase the hoard my children are nicely building. I want them to start finding bookdragon friends to flail with.

If this is most of my legacy, I’ll be okay with that.

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books, The Invisible Moth

Happy Bookiversary!

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So, I’ve never been very good at the self-promotion thing… One of the hardest parts, for me, about being an indie author is that you have to do most of your marketing and advertising yourself. To this day, I still get a little shy when people ask the age-old, “What do you write about?”

But apparently I’ve managed to explain it well enough in the past 2 years that people maintain an interest in my work. Yes, it’s really been 2 years (tomorrow!) since I officially released Masters and Beginners (Volume 1 in The Order of the Twelve Tribes) into the world!

To say I was nervous doesn’t even begin to cover it. I was so ready to become a published author…except deep down, I wasn’t sure I wanted anyone to actually read my book. What if they hated it?

It’s the chance you take. Blessedly, if anyone has a less than favorable view of my titles, I have yet to hear of it. And the praise and encouragement I’ve received has certainly helped in keeping my nose to the grindstone (because believe me, it is a grind to write, edit, format, submit, release, and promote all your own stuff).

But at the end of the day, I do get to admit that, yes, I wrote that.

And that feeling can still be exhilarating.

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Not to blow my own horn…hmm, okay, actually, yes…I’ve made it through the third book in my series (and one of these days the fourth shall finally appear as a finished product). And I managed to squeeze in a collection of short stories as well (and am currently working on a second montage, of flash fiction).

Despite the fact that writing itself is often a solitary act, creating a book is anything but. I owe so much gratitude (and will be shouting it for quite a while) to my cover designers, beta readers, reviewers, and overall writing tribe. To all of you who have helped make this venture worthwhile, thank you, thank you so much.

Here’s to the next two years of The Invisible Moth publishing!

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blogging, books

Bookdragon New Year’s Resolutions (Guaranteed Not to Fail!)

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As long as you follow these instructions.

Don’t blame me if you stray from the path.

Common Resolution 1: Tackling that TBR.

Step 1: Don’t add anything new to your TBR until December 2019.

Step 2: Spend the next 11 months reading books you already own, have requested from the library, or as ARCs.

See how easy that was? Your wallet, your shelves, and your family will thank you.

Acceptable rule-breakers: You find out about a 2019 new release from a favorite author that you didn’t know existed; a friend lends you a book you’d feel guilty holding onto for an entire year; the book club you’re in features a title you don’t currently have or had even intended to go near.

Common Resolution 2: Review books in a polite amount of time.

Step 1: Set a deadline for when you need to have certain titles read by.

Step 2: Read said titles.

Step 3: Write said reviews and post them or schedule posting in advance.

Hints on how to make this stick: Don’t request more than one ARC a month; don’t tell more than one person a month you’ll write a review; don’t commit to reviewing *every* *single* *book* you finish. And always, ALWAYS, refer back to the Ultimate Rule on how to control your TBR.

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Common Resolution 3: Complete your WIP and get it on Wattpad/sent to an agent/self-published

Step 1: Type these words into your 62,845K word total manuscript: THE END.

Step 2: Find beta readers you trust to give tactful but beneficial feedback.

Step 3: Engage an editor or Critique Partner (CP) you trust to put said feedback into action.

Step 4: Do the dang editing. Don’t procrastinate. DON’T STRAY FROM THE PATH, YOUNG PADAWAN.

Step 5: Post on Wattpad. Send to agents. Or upload to a self-publishing website and press Enter.

Okay, this one I’m oversimplfying, I know. But, seriously, all you aspiring writers out there, GO FOR IT! The worst that will happen is that you determine this venture didn’t pan out. But publishing or becoming published is the ultimate Shroedinger’s Cat: You will absolutely never know what would have been if you don’t try.

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Less common resolutions include: Spending less time on social media, reading less hyped books, trying more new authors, and branching out into other genres.

My suggestions for all of these are so simple you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself: Do them.

In all seriousness, though, I really hate to see what the competitive nature of book blogging has done to bookworms who just love to read. Not that I think we should do away with book blogging or anything that extreme — I owe SO much to my beta readers and reviewers and social media followers. But I truly believe that our biggest, and most acted on, resolution this year should be to go back to a love of the written word as the primary reason for doing all of this. It literally DOESN’T MATTER how many books we read in one year, how many ARCs we got approved for, how many reviews we posted, or how all of that compares to other bloggers. We’d do quite well to realize that.

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